Aristophanes' Theory Of Love In The Symposium

1100 words - 4 pages

Aristophanes' Theory of Love in the
Symposium

2. Aristophanes' Theory of love: from Plato's Symposium The love as discussed by the
characters in the Symposium is homosexual love. Some assumed that homosexuality alone
is capable of satisfying “a man’s highest and noblest aspirations”. Whereas heterosexual
love is placed at an inferior level, being described as only existing for carnal reasons; its
ultimate purpose being procreation. There are differing views in these dialogues,
Aristophanes contradicts his peers by treating heterosexuality at the same level as
homosexuality, arguing that both are predestined. Aristophanes considered himself as the
comic poet and he began his discourse as such. Yet as the speech continued, he professed
to open another vein of discourse; he had a mind to praise Love in another way, unlike
that of either Pausanias or Eryximachus. “Mankind”, he said, “judging by their neglect of
him, have never at all understood the power of Love”. He argued that if they had
understood him they would have built noble temples and altars, and offered solemn
sacrifices in his honor. He sought to describe his power and wanted to teach the rest of the
world what he was teaching at that moment. Aristophanes spoke first of the nature of man
and what had become of it. He said that human nature had changed: The sexes were
originally three in number; there was man, woman, and the union of the two. At one time
there was a distinct kind, with a bodily shape and a name of its own, constituted by the
union of the male and the female: but now only the word 'androgynous' remains, and that
as a term of reproach. Aristophanes proceeded by telling an anecdote about the terrible
might and strength of mankind and how “the thoughts of their hearts were so great that
they made an attack upon the gods”, leaving the celestial councils to decide whether or
not to kill them. Zeus found a solution, and decided to cut them in two so as to divide
their strength. As he cut them one after another, he bade Apollo give the face and the half
of the neck a turn in order that man might contemplate the section of himself: he would
thus learn a lesson of humility. He made all the forms complete except in the region of the
belly and navel, as a memorial of the primeval state. Aristophanes continued his discourse
in a vein of seriousness and brought forth an important truth. He related the division the
two parts of man, each desiring his other half and dying from hunger and self-neglect
because they did not do anything apart, to love as a need. Since when one of the halves
died and the other survived, the survivor sought another mate, man or woman. The
anecdote continued with Zeus, in pity, inventing a new plan: having males generating in
the females so that by the mutual embraces of man and woman they might breed, and the
race might continue. Or, equally so, if man came to man they might be satisfied and go
about their ways to the...

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